The Business Model: Prelude to the Business Plan


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Viewpoint by James D. Roumeliotis

Traditionally, entrepreneurs know they need a road map we all call “The Business Plan.”  Some see this as a necessary evil and others welcome the concise texture of not launching a venture blind.

Average business plans describe the new venture’s offer to its target market. It also explains how the organization will reach its goals.

Such plans should include:
A) Brief bios on the key players
B) A section detailing the sales and marketing strategy section
C) The organizational structure of the project team or organization
D) Detailed operations description
E) Financial projections
F) Capital investment required to launch the product/organization

These days building a plan is simple enough. You can go to a bank or online and purchase a business plan template. You can even choose the option of hiring consultants who will set the plan up for you.

However, nobody can tell you what you want the business to be. No, I’m not referring to the ‘executive summary’, which is part and parcel of any coherent b-plan. It is my advice that prior to building your business plan, you need something else: call it a viable business model.

The Vision Thing

If the mantra in hospitality chants “location – location – location”, then an entrepreneur’s should be “vision – vision – vision”. Putting the vision on paper is crucial. It will help you secure financing, attract investors and even partners.

New Ventures need this to articulate how the new organization is going to achieve its operational, sales, marketing and financial goals.

Established Enterprises use this tool to depict their objectives in detail. There is a step-by-step engagement and procedure to move forward never forgetting the next level. I call this strategy the “Prelude to business planning”. You simply must have a model first. How can you test an hypothesis without a model? Simply put, you cannot.

Once this initial step has been accomplished, the business plan will be simpler to prepare as the foundation of the organizational structure can be produced. The idiom “putting the cart before the horse” clearly reminds us of this erroneous and common approach.

The business model also makes it easier to visualize and analyze a business from the customer’s perspective. A simple illustration of an apparel retailer’s business model is to make money by selling a specific line of clothing to consumers whose taste and budget are aligned with the store’s offering.

Anatomy of the Business Model

What is a clear definition of a “business model”?

What does it entail?

According to Investopedia.com it is regarded as:

The plan implemented by a company to generate revenue and make a profit from operations. The model includes the components and functions of the business, as well as the revenues it generates and the expenses it incurs.

Dr. Alex Osterwalder, a sought after speaker and advisor with a particular focus on business model innovation, strategic management and management innovation, as well as co-author of the business bestselling book “Business Model Generation”, produced a more succinct definition:

A business model describes the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers, and captures value (economic, social, cultural, or other forms of value). The process of business model construction is part of business strategy.

Developing a business model seems to be an overwhelming and a somber task. However, to alleviate those concerns, Dr. Osterwalder is further credited for creating an ingenious and popular visual version of the conventional business model.

His consists of nine building blocks which focus on the big picture as follows:

1) Customer Segments: Describing who a company offers value to
2) Value Proposition: Describing a company’s offer
3) Channels: Describing how a company reaches its customers
4) Customer Relationships: Describing the relationships a company builds
5) Revenue Streams: Describing how a company makes money
6) Key Resources: Describing what capabilities are required to make the operation function including your suppliers
7) Key Activities: Describing what activities are required to make the operation function
8) Key Partners: The partners that leverage the business model (if applicable)
9) Cost Structure: Describing the costs of a business model


The first 4 (right half of the model) are portrayed as the ‘front stage’ of the business where the client experiences transactions, whereas, numbers 5 to 9 (left half of the model) are the backstage where the action takes place to make the right half (‘front stage’) work seamlessly. The client doesn’t see this part. It’s analogous to a performance in a theater.

The above business model can be sketched on the wall on what is referred to as the “The Business Model Canvas” (see sample image below). A business can turn up with several business models but choose the most ideal for its circumstance after having tested each one through brainstorming, simulations and/or by approaching its intended market for feedback.

Nespresso, the Alluring Business Model

If there is a business success story worth noting and plotting on a business model canvas as an attractive case in point, it should be Nespresso. This brand of high-end single serving espresso coffee systems is a standalone operating unit of the Swiss food conglomerate Nestle SA and its fastest growing brands. Reportedly, Nespresso sales have been increasing by as much as 20% on average for the last several years and earns 4% of Nestle’s total annual revenues.

Nespresso has registered numerous patents for concept including its signature colored capsules containing the ground coffee. Initially, Nespresso wasn’t much of a success with its original business model as its sales channel, back in 1986, was based on the coffee machine partners’ own sales reps touting the distinctive looking apparatus and capsules in the office coffee sectors of Switzerland, Japan and Italy. In 1989, their coffee system is introduced to the consumer/household sector which became a sensation and opened up a new category altogether in the single serving market.

Nespresso’s strategy circumvents the wholesalers and dominant supermarkets. It’s positioned itself as an exclusive luxury good. Taking a branding page from genuine luxury houses, such as Hermes and Chanel, Nespresso too controls its own distribution channels. though its machines are sold in department and fine retail stores, Its capsules are sold solely via online, by phone orders or at its more than 300 boutiques in prime locations throughout the world. This is by far its most successful business model as the company controls pricing and has an intimate relationship with its customers – most notably with regards to the total customer experience and its proactive customer service. Recognize George Clooney in its ads? He’s been a strong connection to the brand which seems to work – at least for the female audience.

Business Reassessment: Strategic Planning Tool

Business models don’t merely apply to start-ups. They equally vital for growing and established businesses which should re-evaluate their business model when revenues are dropping or when working on strategic planning.

An organization should not be operated as a static entity but rather as a progressive and innovative type with foresight to changing economic, technological and market conditions. This includes at looking at new distribution channels and revenue streams.

A case in point are the companies that make up the recording industry. For decades, they had an attitude of arrogant superiority until the day the digital download era came upon them. This development caught them off guard despite the imminent warnings, Having been built on a brick-and- mortar distribution model, they were too complacent to adapt despite the threats and decline in revenues.

Rather than re-evaluate their business model, focus on innovation and ultimately transform by embracing an opportunity, Time Music Group, and several other members of the recording industry, chose a path of least resistance. They decided to hire an army of attorneys and began to aggressively hunt and sue the illegal downloaders, including minors.

Through legal means, they successfully shut down websites such as Napster, BitTorrent and others. Meantime, online music start-ups such as Ritmoteca.com came along and conceived a novel way to distribute and monetize digital downloads. As of April 2008, the largest online music store is Apple’s iTunes Store, with around 80% of the market (source: theregister.co.uk).

https://i0.wp.com/techli.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/business-plan1.jpeg

Closing Memo

Whether starting a new business or moving an existing one to a new direction, a business model is the first strategy to consider developing prior to the business plan. The former is a proprietary method used to acquire, service, and retain customers. It makes you think through your business plan, which in turn communicates the business model. Both should synchronize.

The business model need not be a chore to design. By utilizing a creative one page visual orientation named “Business Model Generation”, developed by Dr. Alex Osterwalder, one can view the business holistically.

Several business models should be considered, their hypothesis validated in the real world and finally the most ideal model chosen.

It took Nespresso almost 30 years, since its first patent, to refine its business model.

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